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Action plans for core industry sectors: Reinforcing Europe’s industrial foundation

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Over the past four years, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani launched several action plans to help core industry sectors overcome difficulties arising from overcapacity, high production costs and trade distortions. The aim is to reshape, support and strengthen the EU’s industrial base.

Since taking office in 2010, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani has initiated and built upon action plans across various industry sectors. This has paved the way for industry’s share of GDP to grow to 20 % by 2020 – one of the ambitious targets laid out in the Europe 2020 growth strategy.

‘When it comes to ensuring the strength of Europe’s industrial base, we need a strong commitment at EU and national level to ensure coherence and prioritisation of all instruments at our disposal,’ Vice-President Tajani said. ‘Our action plans encompass many sectors, as they are increasingly interconnected and have a major impact on industrial success.’

Here is an overview of some of the measures being taken to support the EU’s core industry sectors and spur a modern-day industrial revolution.

Cars: a driver of growth

In addition to employing 12 million Europeans, the automotive industry has strong economic links with numerous sectors. This creates a multiplier effect by connecting upstream industries – such as energy and steel – with downstream industries – information and communications technology, insurance and many more.

At the same time, however, road transport emissions continue to represent a main source of air pollution. Thus, in order to preserve the important role of the European car industry while simultaneously achieving Europe’s environmental goals, Vice-President Tajani outlined the CARS 2020 Action Plan at the end of 2012.

The Action Plan proposes a massive innovative push by streamlining research under the European Green Vehicles Initiative, as well as co-operation with the European Investment Bank, which will facilitate SMEs’ access to credit. The automotive industry will also engage in a series of measures to reduce CO2, pollutant and noise emissions, and in the development of technologically-advanced intelligent transport systems.

Action plan for the steel sector  

The main challenges for the EU steel industry are linked to overcapacity; obligations to reduce emissions; the cost and availability of inputs (raw materials, energy, etc.); competition from third country producers; and the need for attracting a skilled workforce.

In June 2013, Vice-President Tajani presented an action plan to help the European steel industry confront these issues. The plan calls for levelling the international playing field by supporting EU steel exports, fighting unfair practices and ensuring access to vital raw materials.

Importantly, the steel industry is being promoted as a viable employment option. A series of measures aim to encourage young people to enter the sector through the reinforcement of apprenticeship schemes and youth-oriented recruitment processes.

Construction: nurturing low-carbon growth

The Construction 2020 Action Plan was introduced in 2012 to increase access to finance for the European construction sector, promote opportunities available in energy- and resource-efficient renovations and slash trade obstacles in the Single Market. The Commission has also been working to create a solid foundation for the construction industry by developing financial instruments for EU Member States that utilise the European Structural and Investment Funds.

The Energy Efficiency Directive, which is currently under review, will further mobilise financial resources. This is particularly important for low-energy buildings, which, despite their economic and environmental advantages, still have a limited market uptake.

A more competitive and efficient defence sector

Working closely with Member States, European Defence Agency, European External Action Service, European Parliament and other interested stakeholders, the Commission Task Force on Defence Industry and Markets released a series of proposals in July 2013 to help the European defence industry meet the challenges of the 21st century. The proposals include an action plan with initiatives for the internal market, industrial policy, research and innovation, space, energy and international trade.

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